The deadline to pass the next stimulus relief package is drawing nearer, but will Democrats and Republicans be able to reach a negotiation and pass the HEALS Act before Aug. 7? Congressional lawmakers have been meeting daily ever since the GOP unveiled the legislation on July 27, though discussions have largely been deadlocked, striking fear that the American people may have to wait weeks, if not months, for further aid.
Revealed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the HEALS Act calls for a second round of stimulus checks, funding for enhanced coronavirus testing and contact tracing, $105 billion for schools as they reopen their doors, aid for small businesses, and a number of other provisions unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic, such as $1.75 billion for a new FBI building. While Democratic opposition was expected, it has also faced backlash with Republicans. Ever since being released, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have been meeting daily with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, with early reports suggesting that negotiations were deadlocked.
As of Sunday, not much seemed to have changed, suggesting that hope the package will be passed by Friday, after which Congress enters another recess, is dwindling. During an interview on ABC's This Week on Sunday, just after reports claimed discussions were "productive," Pelosi admitted, "we just still haven't come to agreement." She also suggested that President Donald Trump was "standing in the way" of an agreement. She said that a major sticking point was the enhanced unemployment benefits that were passed under the CARES Act and expired on July 31, with Democrats wishing to see that benefit extended in its full $600 form while Republicans wish to have it reduced to $200. She added that "the fact is, is it will be close to an agreement when we have an agreement. And it isn't."
Appearing just minutes later, Mnuchin echoed Pelosi's remarks that a deal is not near, citing Republicans' desire to keep the package at the $1 trillion mark. He explained that "the president wants us to get a deal done quickly because this is important to the American people," though he acknowledged that "there are different things that are very contentious." He vowed that he and Meadows "will be back there every day until we reach an agreement."
At this time, it appears as though there is only a slim chance of a relief package being passed by Friday. If a bill is not approved, there will be a 32-day period in which negotiations would not be taking place, as Congress will not reconvene until Tuesday, Sept. 8, during which times discussions would likely start again.